Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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26 Nov 2008

Two giraffe from Auckland Zoo arrived at Port Botany today after travelling the high seas to join the zoo breeding program for this remarkable African species in Australia.

Reminiscent of a modern day Noah's Ark, a young female giraffe ‘Ntombi' and male ‘Forrest' arrived in Sydney from Auckland Zoo after making the ocean voyage aboard ANL ship Yarrunga on their way to Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo's Senior Giraffe Keeper, Pascale Benoit, said: "Ntombi, which is African for ‘Little Girl', will join the breeding herd at the Zoo. She is 16 months old. Her one year old brother Forrest will travel to Australia Zoo in the New Year after completing quarantine at our Zoo."

"This is quite a spectacular demonstration of how we manage our wildlife regionally, coordinating breeding programs and sharing resources. The sea crossing is very exciting for us and the animals. Ntombi is very important genetically and we are looking forward to her settling in, maturing and welcoming her own calves in years to come," said Pascale.

The transfer of the giraffe has been a meticulously planned logistical operation. Specially for the giraffe, the ship's cargo also included 100 kilograms of hay, 25 kilograms of animal pellets and 60 kilograms of vegetables for the young animals to munch on during their voyage.

Zoo keepers had also been familiarising Ntombi and Forrest with their travelling crates over the past few months, using techniques developed by the zoos that use cooperation between the keepers and animals to make the transfers easy and comfortable for all involved.

Taronga Western Plains Zoos' keepers are experts at giraffe transfers having moved these majestic animals between Sydney and Dubbo numerous times as well as interstate to maintain genetic diversity to the regional population. Similar to other seamless giraffe transfers, Ntombi and Forrest will make the road journey to Taronga Western Plains Zoo on a low loader in specially designed travelling crates, complete with police escort through Sydney.

"The transport crates have been designed to give them the opportunity to look about during their travels through Sydney and regional NSW. Despite the giraffe's height, the low loader will enable the convoy to travel comfortably under low bridges and trees on their journey to Dubbo."

"As you can imagine, transporting giraffe when they are fully mature is all but impossible, so we move them when they are still young enough and small enough to fit onto the standard transport vehicle," said Pascale.

The two giraffe will complete a month's quarantine at Taronga Western Plains Zoo before entering their respective breeding programs. This is the second giraffe arrival for Taronga Western Plains Zoo this year, with a new breeding bull ‘Unnami' arriving from Monarto Zoo earlier in June. It is hoped the pairing of the Adelaide male and New Zealand female will produce a new bloodline for the Australasian region.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo keepers are experts at giraffe breeding, having welcomed eight calves into the breeding program since 2003. Once quarantine is complete, Ntombi will join the 10 other giraffe in the African Savannah Exhibit at Taronga Western Plains Zoo home.

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